What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:07 AM 8/10/2017

by THR staff

Bob Iger and Reed Hastings - Split - Getty - H 2017
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What's news: As Chinese regulators crack down on investments, is Hollywood's love affair over? Plus: Facebook is making its big splash into TV with a new feature, Netflix is grappling with Disney's move to pull movies and a suspended Fox News host is suing a journalist for $50M— Matthew Belloni, Erik Hayden and Jennifer Konerman

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  • Hollywood’s China Heartbreak

    Billions have been thrown into turmoil as Chinese regulators crack down on investments and both Trump and some Dems adopt a protectionist stance, Scott Roxborough and Patrick Brzeski find:

    For nearly five years, Hollywood has been buoyed by a flood of cash from China in the form of both surging box-office revenue and multibillion-dollar investments in studio slates and independent?film companies.

    But economic and political shifts coming from both Washington and Beijing are threatening to create a perfect storm of regulatory upheaval that could sink, or at least beach, future U.S.-China media deals. 

    Already there are signs of disruption in the Sino-Hollywood love affair. Several big deals that were in the works — Wanda’s $1B takeover of Dick Clark Productions, the $345M acquisition of Voltage Pictures by Chinese mining group Anhui Xinke and a $416M investment by China’s HNA Group in U.S. in-flight entertainment provider Golden Eagle — have failed, with sources citing a regulatory crackdown in China as a major reason for their demise. 

    Elsewhere in film...

    ? How Disney's plan to pull movies could impact Netflix. Paul Bond, Georg Szalai write: With all its moves into original programming, Netflix is still wildly dependent on the movies and TV shows it licenses from the major entertainment companies, some of which could follow Disney’s lead and cut Netflix off.

    + “The fairy tale has an unhappy ending,” Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter said Wednesday. “Netflix is at the mercy of content owners and can only secure its future and justify its valuation if it successfully develops compelling, owned, original content.”

    ? Katie Holmes to star in The Secret adaptation. The actress is joining a Covert Media film based on Rhonda Byrne's self-help book that will be directed by Andy Tennant. Bekah Brunstetter (This Is Us), wrote the screenplay. 

    ? Venom looks to Riz Ahmed. The actor is in talks to join Sony's Spider-Man spin-off, though his character is being kept under wraps for now. Tom Hardy will play the title character. 

    Deadpool director Tim Miller to adapt Neuromancer. Longtime X-Men producer Simon Kinberg will produce the Fox film, but a writer has not yet been set. The novel was written by cyberpunk pioneer William Gibson. 

    The Maze adds Deborah Ann Woll, Logan Miller. The Sony project, described as in the vein of the 1997 David Fincher film The Game, will be directed by Adam Robitel. Neal Moritz and Ori Marmur are producing.

    ^Big deal: China box office roars with $571M blockbuster. Wolf Warrior 2 became the biggest grossing film ever in the country after 14 days. The movie took the crown from The Mermaid, which earned $527M last year.

    ? U.S. box-office preview: Annabelle: Creation hopes to scare off August angst. New Line's latest horror franchise installment is tracking to open in the $25M-$30M range while Lionsgate's Brie Larson-starrer Glass Castle is projected to open around $5M and the animated Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature looks to take in around $15M

    Trailer watch, Our Souls at Night. Robert Redford and Jane Fonda are reunited in the teaser for Netflix's adaptation, based on Kent Haruf's 2015 novel, set to debut Sept. 29. Watch.

    Phillip Noyce to helm WWII movie. The Devil's Brigade follows Davie Berman, the only Jewish member of the Luciano mob, who helped the U.S. military turn the tide of events against the Germans in Italy.

    ? John Boyega talks at length about Last Jedi, Detroit. The Star Wars breakout joins Scott Feinberg's podcast to speak candidly about why he regards Kathryn Bigelow's new drama as "the biggest movie of my career." Listen

  • Facebook's Big TV Push

    Months after saying that it would begin paying for original programming, Facebook has introduced Watch, a new video platform for shortform and high-end originals, Natalie Jarvey writes: 

    Watch will be a new hub for Facebook video programming that the social networking giant is positioning as a place for creators and publishers to find a tailored audience to build a community of viewers. 

    Fidji Simo, vp product at Facebook, tells THR that the entire Watch experience was developed around the idea that "you can watch videos through the lens of your friends."

    For its top-tier shows, Facebook is said to be looking to spend about six figures per episode for full ownership, which would give it the ability to release them to its global audience of 1.9 billion monthly active users.

    There is a personalized "watchlist" for following along to the latest episodes as well as discovery sections where Facebook will highlights shows that are "most talked about" or "what's making people laugh." Full show list. 

    Meanwhile, at FX's TCA day...

    John Landgraf's latest on Peak TV. The long-tenured FX Networks CEO explained painted a fairly bleak picture of a future, where the Netflixes and Amazons are at risk of driving companies like his out of the business.

    “In the existing entertainment system … if you’re an artist and you don't want to work with one company, you pick up your briefcase and you go down the road with your typewriter and you go work for another company," Landgraf said. "The concern I have is something called a monopsony, which [means there is] a dominant buyer."

    Snowfall renewed for season 2. John Singleton's cocaine drama, set in 1983, has been averaging 5M total viewers across linear and VOD platforms.

    Warren Littlefield developing Space series. The Fargo exec producer's latest project, which landed a script development deal at FX, "examines astronauts who ... come back to Earth and everything falls apart." 

    ? You're the Worst rounds out season 4 cast. Creator Stephen Falk and the cast previewed what to expect after season 3. Zosia Mamet and Lou Diamond Phillips will guest star as old figures in the characters' lives.

    Ryan Murphy's equality effort update. The Half Foundation has succeeded in its plans to see more than half of the showrunner's TV content be directed by women, seeing 60 percent women directors hired in its first year.

    Elsewhere in TV...

    ^Fox News' Eric Bolling sues journalist for $50M. Days after Yashar Ali wrote a story on HuffPost claiming more than a dozen sources told him Bolling sent "an unsolicited photo of male genitalia via text message to at least two colleagues at Fox Business and one colleague at Fox News," the recently suspended host is suing the journalist for defamation. Details. 

    ? Hulu developing RuPaul TV dramedy from J.J. Abrams. The half-hour project, tentatively titled Queen , is described as a fictionalized version of RuPaul's rise from club kid to drag queen set in 1980s New York.

    Netflix lands Coen Brothers' anthology series. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, produced by Annapurna Television, will debut in 2018. It will feature six tales about the American frontier, starring Tim Blake Nelson. 

    Seeso closing down this year. After a round of layoffs and seeing its top exec depart, NBCUniversal's digital platform Seeso announced that it "will be shutting its comedy doors."

    ? HBO's Westworld adds trio to season 2 cast. The drama has enlisted Gustaf Skarsgard and Fares Fares as series regulars to its rapidly expanded cast, joined by Betty Gabriel, who will recur.

    ? Amazon's Matthew Weiner series adds Aaron Eckhart. The actor has been cast in The Romanoffs, which includes Isabelle Huppert, Amanda Peet, Jack Huston, Marthe Keller, Christina Hendricks and John Slattery.

    ? Sony Pictures TV has found its new drama head. Lauren Stein is the latest to be promoted as part of CEO Tony Vinciquerra's exec team restructuring following exits of Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht for Apple.

  • Should You Tell Someone Else's Story?

    Top creators John Ridley, Glenn Mazzara and more speak with Rebecca Sun about HBO's controversial slavery drama from the Game Of Thrones creators, Amazon's similarly-themed Black America and whether it's "all fair in love and television writing."

    What else we're reading...

    "Who’s afraid of Sinclair Broadcasting?" Jack Shafer's column: "left and right have united to pour vinegar on Sinclair Broadcasting Group’s effort to add Tribune Media’s 42 television stations." [Politico]

    "Censoring their own." Terry Teachout notes: "From paintings to plays, works of art are being protested, often by artists themselves who have tapped into the outrage machine." [The Wall Street Journal]

    "Steven Soderbergh quit movies. Now he’s back." Dave Itzkoff writes: "The director admits to 'shooting my mouth off,' but he was genuinely fed up ... The caper Logan Lucky is his bid for a new way forward." [The New York Times]

    "The very human return of Kesha." Spencer Kornhaber writes: "After a public legal and personal struggle, the pop star is back with “Rainbow,” an album that blends fantasy fun and bummer reality." [The Atlantic]

    —  "Hamilton hits L.A." Deborah Vankin notes: "No fewer than 42 wardrobe gondolas, manned by eight dressers, two pressers, a stitcher and full-time laundry person, are making the move along with 513 lighting instruments." [The Los Angeles Times]

    What else we're seeing...

    + "Jimmy Kimmel is on edge about North Korea." [Live]

    + "Anthony Scaramucci is coming to the Late Show." [Late Show]

    + "Marlon Wayans reveals his secret to never aging." [Tonight Show]

    + "Elizabeth Olsen's new friend Is Ernie, her pest control guy." [Late Late Show]

    Today's birthdays: Lucas Till, 27, Brenton Thwaites, 28, Angie Harmon, 45, Justin Theroux, 46, Antonio Banderas, 57.